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Professor Nicholas Christakis takes us into the world of social networks

18 March 2010 / 13:03:55  Elena Nikolova
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The logical question that follows is whether the online world resembles those networks. But online social networks like Facebook are very complex. People can have 100 friends and only 6 out of them can be their real friends. In order to try and figure out what is the ratio between Facebook friends and real friends and whether emotions and everything else spreads within the online social networks, Mr. Christakis had to take a sample of students and study their Facebook profiles. He had to look at all of their uploaded photos and see who appears on the pictures, are they in close proximity on the picture, are they smiling, what are they doing and most importantly, did they label who was on the picture. Because research has shown that if people label their friends on the photos, this means that they have a real relationship. The next thing Nick Christakis wanted to see is who influences us online – is it only our real friends or even irrelevant people can have an effect on us.  The good news is that irrelevant Facebook friends have no effect on us, which is very good and I personally did not expect this result. It turns out that emotions also spread in the online world. Happy people cluster together and they have 20% more friends than the ‘unhappy’ people.

We all know that human beings live in packs. We can hardly survive alone, which is why Nick Christakis ended his fascinating lecture on a positive note by saying: “Social networks are required for goodness to flourish.” And especially during hard times we all need to have this positive view on the world. We need to support and love each other within a network, in order for our society to survive and flourish. 

Tags: Nicholas Christakis Harvard University facebook social networks
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